However, on 4 July, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said that there has been misunderstanding over the issue.
He explained that the decision was an initiative by the MOH to in fact, uphold the national language, as the previous condition set by the Public Service Department (PSD) since 2003 did not require a pass in BM for the appointment of permanent medical officers in the civil service.
This raised further confusion and many called for clarification from the MOH and the Education Ministry.
On 5 July, the matter has finally been clarified ̶ medical graduates must pass the SPM-level BM paper to be appointed as contract-based doctors in public hospitals.
They however, do not need to take the six core SPM subjects ̶ BM, English, History, Mathematics, Science and Moral or Islam Studies ̶ to be in the civil service.
Upon passing the examination, they can serve as housemen in government hospitals. Those undergoing housemanship or on compulsory service are also considered contract-based doctors.
The issue stemmed from a medical graduate that said that they were given a waiver for SPM BM from 2003 when the country faced a shortage of doctors, but the waiver was removed this year without adequate notice.
Before the waiver was withdrawn, O-Levels BM or Bahasa Kebangsaan A was accepted. The MOH then addressed their plight and asked the PSD to waive the SPM-level BM pass requirement for contract staff. In February, the PSD agreed to the request but insisted that SPM-level BM for permanent posts is still needed.
Despite that, some medical graduates in Selangor said they could not register for only the BM subject at the state Education Department, while other states required only BM and History.
Amendments will be made after further discussions
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the matter had been clarified by the Education Minister at the weekly Cabinet meeting on 5 July.
"The Cabinet also decided to amend the Medical Act 1971 to make it mandatory for medical officers to serve two years after their housemanship and insert the clause on the Bahasa Melayu pass requirement," he said.
When asked when the amendments will be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat, Ahmad Zahid said it would have to be discussed by the MOH and the Attorney-General's Chambers first.
"The Cabinet was told that the Malaysian Examinations Syndicate allows for professionals to take a single paper. So these graduates can take their Bahasa paper in November and then apply for housemanship,” he said.
According to him, there were only 23 doctors who were given the waiver, half of which are children of diplomats and went to medical schools abroad.
"I do not it to appear as though 300 or 3,000 people are affected," he said.
"The decision taken by the Cabinet today is final," he added.
The following day, Dr Subramaniam said the 23 doctors who do not have a pass in the SPM BM paper, must sit for the exam until they pass, citing the Cabinet's decision to apply the new amendment to all contract-based doctors. MIMS
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